A TRIO from Chepstow who lost all work during lockdown have explained how the pandemic has helped them to come up with a brand new business in the town centre.

Husband and wife Vanessa and Johnny Hathaway, alongside best friend Samantha Dobbins, have moved into Mr Hathaway’s premises on Moor Street, with a business aimed at giving professionals and residents a chance to hold meetings and socialise.

Mrs Hathaway and Ms Dobbins have plenty of experience working in the events industry, while Mr Hathaway is a professional wedding photographer, and all felt the impact of the pandemic keenly.

Mrs Hathaway has not had a single event to organise since March, while all but one of Mr Hathaway’s weddings were cancelled.

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The Snug. Picture: Johnny Hathaway

Ms Dobbins, a single mum with three children who produces video inventories for a property management company, has lost so much work she had to turn to the local food bank.

“It’s been a really difficult time and we knew we all had to find something to get us through it,” said Mrs Hathaway.


“We feel lucky we’ve had the self-employment support grant, and that we’ve been able to move into a premises that we own.”

The Snug provides a venue for people to meet up. It is £5 per person per hour in the daytime for workers, and the same price for social gatherings in the evening.

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Picture: Johnny Hathaway

The business provides the space and some equipment for meetings, including mouse pads and USB ports. 

“We think this is what people want at the moment,” Mrs Hathaway said.

“It can be a safe environment for workers to have meetings, or for friends to have a ‘night in’ away from home.”

She says the first weekend, after they opened their doors on Friday evening, has been very encouraging.

“It’s been great. We feel the major hurdle will be getting over to people what we offer and why we’re a relevant business here.

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Picture: Johnny Hathaway

“We feel with a lot more people likely to be working from home long into the future, it can help people in Chepstow stay connected.

“I think people are getting cabin fever and would like to start meeting up again.

“I had an inquiry today from a woman working in the care sector who needed to meet with colleagues, but cannot go to the care home. It shows it’s an idea that could work.

“We’ve also had inquiries about birthday parties, and I think we’ll get more because people don’t want to be sat outside socialising during the winter months.”

Asked about the outlook for traders in Monmouthshire with businesses hit by surrounding areas heading into lockdown, Mrs Hathaway added: “I can’t say we weren’t expecting it. If we can survive the next six months I think the possibilities are really exciting.”